Bourbon Trail Day 3: Louisville

We started Day 3 on the Bourbon Trail at Angel’s Envy where we made a reservation for later in the day and drove a few short blocks to Peerless Distilling. Peerless was a pleasant surprise. What a beautiful tasting room and bar!

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They have done a great job of restoring the building. Peerless is a name that has been around since 1890 but the distillery had closed in 1917 during the war effort. Corky Taylor wanted to resurrect his family distillery. In 2014 they were able to buy back the original license and Peerless name and began construction restoring a 114 year-old building in Louisville. They filled their first barrel since 1917 in March of 2015.

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Peyton Beall directed our introduction to Peerless and our tasting. She was very knowledgeable about the distillery and its history.

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They do their tasting with a delicious piece of chocolate, and what a difference that makes. Peerless Rye was just selected by Whisky Advocate Magazine as # 15 in the top 20 whiskies in the world.

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Our next stop was Angel’s Envy. You will be in awe of their distillery and tasting room. They have spared no expense. Another facility in a restored old distillery building in downtown Louisville. The effort to restore a lot of the old buildings has paid off with beauty and great old history.

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This tasting was also done with chocolate. It enhances the senses and experience and takes it to a whole new level.

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After the tour and tasting we hung out in their bar and had a cocktail. They make all their own bitters, syrups, and mixers. Do take the time to relax and have a drink with them. It’s well worth the experience.

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Our last stop of the afternoon was at Evan Williams. They are open until 6:00 which helped us extend the day a bit (others close earlier). Their tour will take you through a diorama of the life and history of Evan Williams which also takes you through the history of whiskey and bourbon in Kentucky.

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The tastings are done in one of several bars set up with period design and furnishings from different time periods. Ours was from the ‘60’s. It is a most informative tour and learned a lot about the history, distillery equipment, a mock barrel warehouse.

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It was a great way to end the day before dinner! This was our 5th distillery on Saturday having begun in Lexington and ended in Louisville. It was time to sit down and relax.

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The next morning we drove out to Bulleit Distillery from downtown. Bulleit is a step back in time. “Originally opened on Derby Day in 1935 and reopened to the public in 2014, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery is one of the true cathedrals of the American Whiskey industry.”

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They won’t tell you on the tour but all the Pappy Van Winkle up until a few years ago came from this distillery. The day we were there they were baking Girl Scout Cookies at the adjacent property. They had about 4 inches of snow on the ground. It made for very pretty pictures against those corrugated steel barrel houses.

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The tour was really well done, probably the best we had along the way. I learned a lot and I felt like I was at Mecca. There is no substitute for walking into a warehouse full of aging bourbon, and on a 20-degree day it’s even more chilling!

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You get to taste 4 of their products in the tasting: their rye, bourbon, 10-year bourbon, and Blade and Bow. I was delighted with the 10 year and the Blade and Bow Bourbon. The 10-year is quite a bargain. They also have some of the Orphan Barrel bourbons for sale in their gift shop.

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When in Louisville plan at least a day for these and more of the tours available. We did not do the Jim Beam experience, there are a few craft distilleries, and there are more opening soon. With all the superb hotels, restaurants, and bars you could spend days in Louisville and not experience it all. Plan to go when it’s a little warmer than the weather we had. But cold or hot there is always a bourbon drink for the weather.

The Bourbon Trail: Our First 2 Days

Lynn and I just got back from a fun weekend on the Bourbon Trail and I’m going to spend the next couple weeks sharing all our tips and suggestions from the trip. We had a great time! But hit a big snag – the weather.

The Bourbon Trail in January would normally not be a huge challenge. We flew into Nashville because we needed to tour Corsair and MB Roland to complete our Craft Bourbon Trail passport to get our Julep Cups. When we arrived in Nashville it was in the 60’s and people were walking around in T Shirts. But that didn’t last long. When we got up the next morning it was starting to snow (the news predicted 6 inches so everything was closing) as we headed to MB Roland. Lynn got on the phone knowing they may not open. MB Rolland was not opening but Corsair said to come on over to Bowling Green!

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Corsair Distillery was named for the privateer or pirate Corsairs. They are a smaller private distillery that does things in a different way.   They make a lot innovative and adventurous spirits, they experiment with new methods, ingredients, and are privateers. With the weather the way it was we got a private tour and met Aaron Marcum, the Head Distiller.

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They were bottling while we were there. We got to ask Aaron a lot of questions and after the tour Steve the Assistant Distiller did our tasting. There are so many different spirits to choose your 7 tastings from you will be there quite a while.

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**That is my first tip on planning your Bourbon Trail trip. Leave time in your schedule to linger at your tastings, ask questions, take pictures, and shop. You will immediately notice how friendly everyone is and how many times you end up in great conversations with the employees.

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We bought a bottle of Ryemageddon and finished up at Corsair. And, luckily, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail folks still gave us our Julep Cups even though we didn’t make it to MB Roland!

We then scraped some ice off the car headed toward Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark or Wild Turkey. It was a trek from where we were, especially considering the weather, and we knew they might be closed. As we got closer we realized EVERYONE was probably closed. We drove to Wild Turkey as they had nothing posted on Facebook only to arrive to be the only ones there.

We took one last stab and went to Bluegrass Distillery since it was in Lexington and not on a country road. They were open and were gracious enough to give us a tour before they left for the day. They are very small which makes for an intimate tour.

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The next morning we awoke to another 3 inches of snow on the car. We checked the Bourbon Trail online and Town Branch was open.

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We had been there before but wanted to see it again. They have a beautiful facility. And despite the weather there was a big crowd. We did some tasting and bought a few bottles. Lynn loved the “Bluegrass Sundown.” It is a dark roasted coffee infused with Kentucky bourbon and sugar. We also bought a bottle off their Town Branch Bourbon with the Christmas labeling. We will hold on to it and to serve next Christmas.

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From Town Branch it was a short 5 minutes to  Barrel House Distilling Co. It’s one of the founding members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and features many unique products to sample.

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Barrel House, true to its name, is housed in the former barreling house of the James E. Pepper distilling complex, a bourbon distillery which operated from 1879-1958. They also have a new bar with a fireplace in it – a very inviting environment on a cold day.

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Up next – Day 3 in Louisville, which could be more than 1 blog in itself. The restoration of Whiskey Row in Louisville has been a true renaissance.

Surprise! We’re on the Bourbon Trail!

Well, I didn’t tell you ahead of time because time got away from me, but I’m telling you now – Lynn and I are on the Bourbon Trail right now. We flew into Nashville yesterday and today are making our way through Lexington and on to Louisville, where we’ll stay the night. Our agenda is loose but here’s a quick rundown of what we’re planning to do:

-Had dinner at Martin’s BBQ last night then went to Tin Roof for live music
-Tastings at Corsair and MB Roland
-Visit Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark, potentially Heaven Hill too
-Staying at the historic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville
-Potentially visit Evan Williams
-Drinks at Silver Dollar

Follow along on Instagram (@bourbonwbt) for updates throughout our trip!

You can read about my first trip to the Bourbon Trail here!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Sees 1 Million Visitors

Football season ended with Sunday night’s exciting Super Bowl. So, now we turn to spring baseball, and, welll, just spring. I’ve talked about the Bourbon Trail before, but with spring upon us I wanted to talk about it more! There is no better time to visit Kentucky than spring, although fall is pretty spectacular as well.

The Bourbon Trail, which officially began in 1999, announced this past week that together the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Craft Bourbon Trail saw over 1,000,000 visitors last year. That is an impressive number and shows the interest and growth in bourbon and whiskey. There are two unique trails, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the Craft Bourbon Trail. There is also a third experience, the Urban Bourbon Trail, which is a tour through Louisville’s bourbon bars (but all bars in Kentucky serve bourbon).

The official Kentucky Bourbon Trail is made up of the following distilleries: Angels Envy, Bulleit, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Four Roses, Heaven Hill (Bourbon Heritage Center), Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. By visiting these distilleries and having your passport stamped you earn a gift. In the past it has been a branded t0shirt though I understand that may be changing.

 

The Bourbon Trail is many of the larger distilleries and in a fairly concentrated section of the state. These are the big boys but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a very informative and personalized tour.

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Town Branch’s distillery

Because they have the bigger budgets their visitor centers are like visiting a museum and candy store with their gift shops. At Jim Beam Lynn got to fill a barrel before it was sent to the warehouse.

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Jim Beam’s visitor’s center

 

Then we got to bottle our own bottle of Knob Creek. We tasted right out of the cypress wood fermenting tanks at Four Roses. Woodford Reserve does 3 different tours. They have their general tour, a historic tour, and the one we took which is called “Corn to Cork.”

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On our tour at Woodford Reserve

The Corn to Cork tour is an educational experience that takes you from where the corn is unloaded into the storage facility to the corking of the bottles. We learned a lot, had a great time, and even got to taste out of a barrel.

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Front porch at Woodford Reserve – doesn’t it look inviting!?

Maker’s Mark lets you dip a bottle in the red wax for you to take with you. At Maker’s Mark it’s an interesting story, I don’t want to spoil, about why they painted the buildings black.

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Maker’s Mark’s tasting room

The Craft Bourbon Trail includes: Barrel House, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Hartfield & Co., Limestone Branch, MB Roland, New Riff, Peerless Distilling Company, the Old Pogue Distillery, Wilderness Trail, and Willet Distillery. These are your smaller distilleries and give you a close up look at the guys making small batch, craft spirits. The craft distilleries are spread throughout the state. This tour is a real challenge to complete in one trip to Kentucky. We did not complete it but look forward to going back this year and completing it. We did make it to Old Pogue, Willet, and Barrel House. They are all so different, and so interesting. One of our favorites was Old Pogue where it was just the 2 of us. We also got a personal tour of the family’s Antebellum home overlooking the Ohio River. Willet is also one you do not want to miss. Their pot still is famous because their Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is in a bottle the shape of their still.

There are other outstanding distilleries not on the official bourbon trails but a must on your trip. Those include Old Barton and Buffalo Trace. Anyone who knows their bourbon knows Buffalo Trace has a lot of brands. Just a few of their brands are Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, Sazerac Rye, George T. Stagg, Stagg Jr., W.L. Weller, and one other brand might have heard of — Pappy Van Winkle.

As you can see there are a lot of stops you can make on the Bourbon trail and I haven’t even mentioned other things to do while you are there. There is always horse racing at Churchill Downs in Louisville, or Keeneland in Lexington.

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At the Garden & Gun event at Keeneland

Or for something different plan a picnic and go to Steeplechase Racing or Polo. These events are always fun, exciting, and feature the food and drink of the region. Churchill Downs makes a mean Mint Julep in the spring. There is always a tour of a horse farm around the Lexington area.

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Visiting Calumet Farm while doing the Bourbon Trail. They have produced the most Triple Crown winners in horse racing history!

When in Louisville any sports fan is going to want to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The Louisville and Lexington visitors websites have a ton of great information on them about the area and other things to do besides sip bourbon!

So where do you stay? The bourbon trail is very spread out, so you have to decide where you want to start and end if you’re trying to see a lot of distilleries. We stayed at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville. A grand of Hotel with a great history. The Brown Hotel in Louisville is also a great place to stay. The Brown Hotel is home to the original Kentucky Hot Brown (another blog to come – I’m a big fan). In Harrodsburg, the Beaumont Inn has been highly recommended by friends. But Lexington, Frankfurt, Bardstown all have wonderful places to stay. In Bardstown you must stop in the Talbott Tavern for a bite to eat. It is the oldest western stagecoach stop in America having been built in 1779.

I could go on and on about bourbon, horses, and Kentucky. Leave a comment with some of your favorite stops along the bourbon trail if you’ve been before!

Bourbon Review: Willett Pot Still Reserve

The first thing you notice about the Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is the bottle. It is a beautiful, elegant bottle with a very long neck and wood topped cork. The bottle shape is made to look like a copper pot still. There is a gold wax seal medallion on the front. Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon appears a copper brown which makes it look even more like a Pot Still. The distillery first offered this bourbon and bottle in 2008.

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We visited Willett Distillery when we did the Bourbon Trail a few years ago. It is small distillery viewed against the big distilleries but a wonderful size for a craft distillery.

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I highly recommend you make a stop by Willet on your tour of the Bluegrass. They produce over a dozen bourbons and a few ryes. They are also known for Willett, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Johnny Drum, and Old Bardstown, Kentucky Vintage, and Pure Kentucky.

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Looks similar to their bottle shape, doesn’t it!?

They offer tours daily and the $12 charge includes a tour, tasting, and a Willett Glencarin tasting glass to take with you. (Well, we didn’t get glasses back when we toured, so now I want to go back!)

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Lynn in front of  one of their fermentation tanks

There isn’t much info on their website as to the mashbill or makeup of their bourbon. Based on the government regulations for a bourbon there is obviously at least 51% corn. I am guess for the Willett Pot Still Reserve it’s a little higher. The bourbon is very floral on the nose. It gives you citrus on the palate with a strong flavor of honey. The finish is very herbal and smooth.

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Barrels at Willett’s Distillery

This is a very well made bourbon from a family with a great reputation for small batch bourbons.

You are going to want this top-class bourbon on your bar for the bottle, but more importantly the liquid gold inside. The bourbon has a delightful finish that come up remarkably sweet and smooth. This is a great sipping bourbon.

Aged: 4 years
Proof: 94 proof
Color: Copper Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Citrus, Caramelized Sugar
Taste: Caramel, Spice, Herbs, Honey
Price: $43.99 for 750mL at Hi-Time Wine Cellars
$85.99 for 1.75L at Hi-Time Wine Cellars

What are you 2017 bourbon resolutions?

It’s the time of year when everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions. I am suggesting if you are a true Bourbon or Whiskey lover it’s the time of year to start planning that trip, party, or purchase for 2017. With the growth in bourbon, and spirits as a whole, in the past few years there are many exciting things you can do.

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Some memorabilia from our trips to bourbon country!

The first I would suggest is a visit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky “Where the Spirit Leads You” – especially if you haven’t been before. There are many ways to see it and several tours. There are two trails – you can do the Bourbon Trail, or the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour (or both in an extended trip). You will cover a lot of the state; from Lexington, to Bardstown, to Maysville, and beyond. Lexington and the surrounding area has much more to offer with Keeneland Racecourse, the horse farms you can visit, and all the history there.

On our most recent visit to bourbon county, we did the Urban Bourbon Trail which was a bar hop through Louisville. There are a lot of great bourbon bars and restaurants in Louisville. While in Louisville there is always Churchill Downs (home of the Kentucky Derby), the Louisville Slugger Museum, and the Speed Museum just to name a few places to see beyond the bourbon. I’ll do a visitor’s guide to Louisville in the next couple months.

If you can’t make it to Kentucky, there is a pretty high likelihood there is a distillery in driving distance to where you live that you could make a trip too in 2017. Lynn and I visited distilleries in Virginia and Washington State this year. Bourbon and whiskey is everywhere.

Consider events like the Kentucky Bourbon Classic in Louisville March 3-4, 2017. There is tasting, food, & education.  .

WhiskyFest is another way to learn about Whisky and Bourbon. These events are put on by Whisky Advocate Magazine (I know what you are thinking, where is the “e”). If you are you wondering about the “e” you need to attend a festival. The hold them in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

Events like these offer a lot of fun and fellowship amongst people with a very common interest which in this case is the spirit

Or maybe it’s the year you want to start a collection of bourbons. Do some research on line, through your knowledgeable local store, or ask an expert. There are lots of forums and websites. Plan now to make this the year to do that “Bourbon Experience” you always wanted. Whether its sipping a whiskey you always wanted by the fireplace this winter, or meeting a Master Distiller at a festival or Distillery. Cheers to 2017!

Bourbon Review: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve

For those of you who are not history buffs, 1792 is the year Kentucky became a state. Kentucky was part of Virginia until it became the 15th state. If you do love history you have to love the simplicity of this bourbon’s name. Simply put: 1792.

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The following history was taken from Caskers’s website:

In 1876, John D. Willett, one of Kentucky’s original bourbon aristocrats, transferred his interest in the Willett & Frenke Distillery to his son-in-laws, Benjamin Mattingly and Thomas Moore. Mattingly and Moore continued to operate the Willett & Frenke Distillery together until 1881, when Mattingly finally sold his stake in the company to a group of investors.

In 2012, at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 1792 tied Pappy Van Winkle’s 23 Year Old Bourbon with a score of 95 points.

This is a very good bourbon with plenty of spice to make it interesting.  It has a sweet smell and taste to it. It’s definitely different than many other bourbons on the market. I read a lot of older reviews and the reviews get better every year. I have only been drinking it for a few years now and I have enjoyed it from the beginning (as you can see, my current bottle is almost gone!). At $24.99 this is real delight. I got my last bottle at Hi-Time Wine Cellars where you can find just any bourbon you desire.

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Here is a nice video for 1792 that Barton Distilling put out in January:

Aged: 8 years
Proof: 93.7
Color: Amber
Aroma: Spice, Sweet Vanilla
Taste: Pepper, oak
Price: $24.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars